French police are hunting for the gunman, who witnesses said was riding a black scooter [AFP]
At least four people, including three children, have been killed in a shooting outside a Jewish school in the southwest French city of Toulouse, officials say.
Monday’s incident occurred as children and their parents were arriving at the Ozar Hatorah school, in the northeast of the city, for the start of the school day.
The shooter drove away on a scooter, a national police officer said.
Claude Gueant, the French interior minister, has ordered security to be tightened around all Jewish schools in France following Monday’s attack.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, his education minister and interior minister are travelling to Toulouse.
Patrick Rouimi, the father of a child at the school, told AFP that a man opened fire on a group of people standing at a spot where children were picked up for school.
“He shot at everything he could see, children and adults, and some children were chased into the school,” Michel Valet, the local prosecutor, told journalists.
The daughter of the school’s director was seriously injured in the attack, said Charles Ben Semoun, a parent of another child in the school.
Nicole Yardeni, president of the Council of Jewish Institutions in France, told Al Jazeera that the children who were killed were the younger siblings of those who attend the school.
“There is an eight-year-old, a six-year-old and a three-year-old that are dead and a 17-year-old that [attends] the school, that is between life and death at the hospital.”
Yardeni said that a parent was also killed.
She said that the shooter was “extremely determined because cameras showed [the shooter] running after the children and shooting at them”.
“He was shooting at them, even catching them and shooting them in their heads,” she said.
Gilles Bernheim, the grand rabbi of France, who is also on his way to the city, said he was “horrified” and “stunned” by what had happened.
Israel’s foreign ministry declared itself “horrified” by the attack.
A local prosecutor said the gunman ‘opened fire at everything that moved’ [AFP]
“We are horrified by this attack and we trust the French authorities to shed full light on this tragedy and bring the perpetrators of these murders to justice,” Yigal Palmor, the Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson, told AFP.
Police in southwestern France launched a major manhunt last week after the killing of three paratroopers and the wounding of another in two separate, but connected incidents.
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Paris, said that people were particularly concerned because the recent incidents pointed towards a possible pattern emerging.
The perpetrator of both attacks fled on a motorbike.
“Towards the end of last week there was a shooting in which three [paratroopers] were shot dead… Again the attacker was on a scooter,” Rowland said.
France has Europe’s largest Jewish community, estimated at up to 700,000 people.
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